Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Alex Chung, Withers

Date: 08 Feb 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

I am a private client and tax lawyer at Withers, based in Hong Kong. I am dual qualified in Hong Kong and New Yorkand focus my practice on will and trust planning, probate, and US taxation. On the US tax front, I help clients set up US tax-efficient trust structures and US real estate holding structures. I also advise clients on the US tax ramifications of giving up US passports or green cards and on the options to come into compliance with their US tax and reporting obligations.

Talk us through one of your most recent client cases.

I am currently advising the executor of the estates of a few UHNWIs within the same family. I am handling the Hong Kong probate and US estate tax aspects of the matter. I am also working with counsel admitted in other US States, Australia, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda in relation to the deceased’s assets and liabilities in those jurisdictions.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for a tax lawyer?

Both technical skills and people skills are particularly important skills. It is essential for tax lawyers to be able to explain complex tax rules to their lay clients in simple and comprehensible language.

What’s the biggest challenge lawyers in your sector are currently facing?

Remaining connected to clients during the COVID19 pandemic has beena major challenge to private client and tax lawyers. I have been trying to publish articles and deliver webinars to connect with clients and intermediaries during these days.

Are your clients behaving differently in the present era?

Given the COVID19 pandemic, most of my clients now actually prefer online meetings to physical meetings. They told me that online meetings tend to be more efficient.Physical meetings are typically reserved for occasions where my clients need to sign important documents.

Best and worst parts of your job.

The best part of my job is really when my clients show gratitude for the work I have done and the advice I have given, especially after helping them navigate through tough times, such as the death of an immediate family member and the ensuing probate process.
The less desirable aspect of a lawyer’s job when advising international families is the need to work across multiple time zones. Very often, wealthy families have assets and/or connections in multiple jurisdictions around the globe. I often have to schedule online meetings and calls with clients and their advisors based in other time zones (such as the US, the UK and Canada).

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

Always check (and double check) the name and identifying information of the parties to each contract or legal document you have drafted or reviewed.
I am grateful for this valuable piece of advice given to me while I was a trainee solicitor.Even if you have drafted numerous excellent clauses into a contract to protect your client’s interests, if the names of the parties to the contract are wrong, the contract may well be unenforceable!

Alex Chungis a member of Citywealth Leaders List.

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